Surprises featured at genealogical conference

Researching your roots can yield surprising information, including new cousins, but you can learn more at a Kelowna conference this month.

Genealogists Mary Read (left) and Claire Smith-Burns (right) flank Capital News reporter Judie Steeves

Genealogists Mary Read (left) and Claire Smith-Burns (right) flank Capital News reporter Judie Steeves

Using examples is a proven method of involving and educating people, so members of the Kelowna and District Genealogical Society have traced the family tree of this local reporter to present to those attending Western Canada’s largest conference in Kelowna at the end of this month.

Harvest Your Family Tree is organized by the KDGS and runs Fri., Sept. 28 through Sun., Sept. 30 with 24 concurrent workshops for people of all levels and interests in genealogy, as well as a marketplace of vendors and exhibitors, a dinner, library open house and guided tour of Kelowna’s historic pioneer cemetery.

Genealogy is the study of families, tracing their lineage and ancestry, and it’s an activity that intrigues more and more people.

Genealogists Claire Smith-Burns and Mary Read of the KDGS spent 10 months researching my family tree and presented the results to the family and to members attending the September regular meeting, prior to the conference.

It was an intriguing journey they took that included research on the Internet now that many archival sources have been digitized, by mail and phone and in person at libraries.

Although there are gaps, they traced some of my roots back to the early 1400s, 12 generations back and found that one of my ancestors was United Empire Loyalist Seth Seely, who fled the United States in 1783 after the American Revolution and settled in New Brunswick. He died there in 1823, and is listed as one of the 64 oldest Loyalists, on the UEL of Canada website.

The Loyalists were an instrumental part of Canada’s early settlement and in 1789 they were given the right to put the letter UE, for Unity of the Empire, after their names, in perpetuity, and so can their descendants, forever.

The two genealogists hoped to turn up some surprises in the process of their investigation, and they certainly did, particularly when they narrowed the search down to living relatives about which our family knew nothing.

For instance, my Grampy’s sister’s grandson, otherwise known as my second cousin, is about my age and now living on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. I’ve now communicated with him by e-mail.

Ironically, he was a marine photo-journalist for 30 years in England before retiring a few years ago.

They also discovered in their search than I have a surprising fifth cousin, who is also a garden columnist at this paper, and who was present at the meeting: Don Burnett.

Two sixth cousins twice removed were also present at the meeting: the researcher Claire Smith-Burns and her sister, Janice Appleton.

Surprises in genealogy are not always pleasant ones, but they certainly are informing and invariably interesting. The findings put us in context with our past, provide us with our history and a sense of how we came to be who we are, in the larger sense.

To learn more, register for Harvest Your Family Tree by going to the website, where there are also more details of the workshops:

Most of the sessions will be held at Okanagan College, and participants must pre-register.


Kelowna Capital News